Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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Difference in boat prices?
Thanks for your kind comments. As in so many things, boat design is a balancing act. You can have strong and light and cheap but you can''t have all three at once. When you look at production boats like the Beneteaus, they are biased toward thier target market, which in my opinion appears to be people who routinely sail in moderate conditions and occasionally get caught in a blow. Because these boats are also price sensitive, they are made no stronger than they have to be to meet that target market. There are very appropriate decision made that in normal service save consoiderable cost and produce an adequately strong boat. I can give you one example of this kind of trade off. At least on some models, Beneteau and Catalina have taken to gluing structural bulkheads into boats using very high tech adhesives. They also use these adhesives to glue the hull to the deck. Go to a boat show and they will rightly tell you that the plywood or fiberglass will fail long before the adhesion of these miracle glues. I believe them. Because of the amazing properties of these adhesives they can use very small contact areas to achieve the adhesive strength of traditional tabbing. In normal conditions, these glued joints should work fine. What they don''t tell you and, which in normal use probably does not matter, is that the small contact area of the adhesive does not distribute the loads over as large a contact area on the fiberglass or plywood in the same way that traditional tabbing would. By concentrating the loads it means that if there is a small void in the glued materials there is less of an opportunity for the loads to bridge across to a stronger spot. There is more likely to be a small release of bond that over time can and will spread if subjected to higher stresses.
So, in other words, in my humble opinion in normal use these production coastal cruisers will hold up just fine. BUT also in my opinion, most of these higher production cruisers are not really intended to spend weeks at a time being thrashed by 40 to 50 knot winds.
From sailing older production boats over a period of years, it is clear that over time boats loosen up. They just plain flex more as connections begin to work and small degrees of freedom of rotation become a little bit larger. Unless properly engineered for the abuses of heavy weather sailing, this process of becoming more flexible can be greatly accellerated by gettting nailed in a gale for a long period of time.
With increased flexure comes increased fatigue and a reduction in reserve strength that comes from the boat being able to distribute loads outward to larger areas.
It not a matter of whether or not these lighter production boats will sink or float. It more a matter that if abused, over time they are no longer as sturdy as one would prefer. For most of us who prefer coastal cruising, that never becomes an issue.
But if you plan to spend a lot of time offshore then you want a boat that has a little more reserve strength than you would find on one of these lighter production boats. There are maunufacturers who do seem to produce a better quality production boat at only a slightly higher price. Dehler has always struck me as being one of those companies. Halberg Rassey has that reputation (although I have not spent enough time on them to have a first hand opinion.) In this company Tartan, and Sabre come to mind as producing better quality boats for only a little more. While I have not been especially impressed with Calibers, they have tried to market themselves as producing good offshhore boats for a reasonable price.
I guess in the end this about your own sailing goals. I like coastal sailing. I like sailing into interesting and different locations and watching the coast go by. Offshore sailing did nothing for me. As a result I can get away with pretty light duty boats. (I happened to have chosen a boat with a good offshore record.) If you are planning to go offshore and really spend time out there, sooner rather than later you will be dealling with some big winds and seas, and in those kind of conditions, its nice to have a boat that is a little robust and perhaps a little more expensive under you.